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Chapter Twentyone

Day 60

St Tropez – Carro

Blue skies and pleasantly warm. We head off after breakfst and pass through Cogolino along the mountain road which winds its way through pine trees and past some lovely houses and vineyards. Le Mole is a very pretty small village with lovely houses and shops lining the road through it and at the end of which was a stream, which you cross on leaving the town. We drop down again towards the sea at Hyeres, again very pretty but a little larger and their is a ornamental large fountain situated on the roundabout, very nice. The road then leads inland again slowly and we pass a large field full of poppies which adds a wonderful splash of colour to the landscape. We notice lots of horse riding centres along the road and in the distance the rocky mountains of Mssif des Maures stand out clear aginst the blue sky. In this whole area you will find vineyards selliingtheir wines and also quiet a few pottery and ceramic stalls, with their terrracota pots and colourfully painted pottery.

Driving along this winding narrow mountsin road we notice a motorhome behind us overtaking cars until he is right behind us, we thinkthat this is a very dangerous way to drive such a vehicle on these roads. He tries to ovrtake us several times but on coming traffic stop him until suddely, and with a bend in front of us, he comes along side, and hits our mirror and clips our van as he cuts us off, luckily for us our driver stays calm and we are not forced off the road and into the ditch which is to the side of us. We angrily beep our horn but he erratically overtakes another car in front and drives off without stopping. We pull over shaken up and feeling very angry as opur wing mirror is smashed and we have a large scratch and dent on the front of the van where he hit us. We luckily took his number and will report him to the police!

At Le Garde we turn off the N98 and take the 559.Up on the hill above the town are the ruins of an old castle. The town itself is fairly large but quiet. The houses in this area of France are really pretty, many are painted soft colours and have wooden shutters at the windows and the roofs have the traditional pantiles, and palm trees are scattered everywhere. As we enter Toulon we pass a large flee market which is quiet busy unfortunaetly there is no room to park so we have to carry on. Toulon is quiet a large place and there are lots of high rise flats. We skirt around the edge of the city but we still hit heavy traffic, and crawl along slowly past cafes filled with sunday morning coffee drinkers. A large market is filled with shoppers and it has a very lively atmosphere. Along our tree lined avenue we come outat the port, there are a few parking places overlooking the water and we can see navy ships, cargo ships, huge liners as well as pleasure boats. A few small yachts with their white sails billowing in the iwnd dart across the clear blue waters. A small train filled with sightseers stops for a few photos next to us (Not of us, but for the view) before heading off up the road and out of sight. We stay for a while to have a nice cup of tea and some cake and relax and enjoy the view. The land infront of us wraps around the sea and forms a bay with an opening to the far side. On leaving we pass the football stadium and on our left we notice they have the car park underneath the stadium, a good idea for a busy town like this one, as it saves so much space. A little firther on we see a fenced in area for dogs, people drop off their dogs inside and seem just to leave them to play and run around. I have never seen anything like this in a town before, ‘A doggy playground’. To our right we see a large square with a very large Statue and Fountain, very fancy. This seems to be the older part of the town and is filled with lots of nice buildings such as the large Palis du Justice and statues. The streets are wide, tree lined and clean with trees and flowers in well tended beds.

The motrway heads of towards Marseille but we turn away to follow more scenic side roads. In Italy we noticed many shops open now all day on sundays but in France they still close, though you will find the odd shops open on sunday mornings. Coming into Ollioules the houses are creeping up the mountainside, which gives them lovely views over the village below. The bright red of the poppies stands out every so often adding asharp splash of colour every now and then. The road starts to climb again and their are al rge amount of people around equipped with mountain walking boots and sticks, and heading off on the mountain tracks. It is a very nice place to do some walking. The road then starts to climb a bit steeper through a rocky gorge and a small stream trickles down alongside us. Cyclists are here in abundance though i can imagine it to be very hard work on these hills. High above the road rises a castles ruins and as we pass along we come to the village of ‘St Anne de Ejenos’ with painted houses and blue wooden shutters. The town is surrounded by vineyards and now the landscape seems a little flatter. The town roundabouts are nicely decorated and old farm machinery are placed ornately onto them. The next village of ‘Le Beausset’ is a little larger and has a windmill at the centre. Its brickwork has been cleaned and it looks really nice. It is such a shame though that graffiti artists have to spoilso many iof the walls and buildings with their scribble.

Climbing higher again their is somespectacular far reaching views and tghe landscape becomes a little more barron. From the top we can seeacross to the sea and a few islandsjutting out from the coast. Thuiis road is wotrth driving up for the views alone. A large walled area at the side of the road suddenly opens up and there is ‘Circuit Paul Richard’ a racing track and a n airoprt (Airoport du Castellet), Hotel du Castellet and a Best western Grand prix hotel. After the barren landscaleof the climb, you find all this plus houses, all very neatly built amongst the trees. There is alsoa very large holiday village ‘Le Domain de la Bergerie’ filled with chalets and static caravans, followed with another site ‘Franceloc’ just as big as the first. A little further on are a few shops and then as suddenly as it all appeared we are back out and the road starts to descend down the other side with nothing but trees, sheep and a few donleys.

We then come across the ‘Ok Carral’ with large wigwams, chalets and a large fairground and swimming pool, what a setting! As the road drops lower we pass through traditional Provencial villages again. This drive (apart from the ‘Accident’) has been really lovely and it is one i would certsinly recomend. Allow time to stop amd look around, it is well worth it. Aubagne sits nestled below the peaks of the nassif which surround it. A fairly large town with factories on the outskirts and quite a few blocks of flats. The drive through is quite as there are not many cars on the road. It seems to be a well looked aftertown and is clean, neat and tidy and pleasant. Next comes ‘Le Penne’ as we head towards ‘Marseille’.

Marseille is a large port and city and although the main thoroughfere is a wide straight avenue. Veering off this takes you onto very narrow side streets. The city has a lively sir about it and bustling streets are filled with people and traffic. Cafes spill out onto the side walks and fruit and veg sellers have colourful stalls along the way. At the waterfront their is alarge replica staue of ‘David’ by Michealangelo. Their is building work going on but the front is till clean and tidy, a very nice place to be. The mariner is crammed full of boats and we think how hard it must be to find your boat amongst the madness. Their are crowds of people milling around watching street artirts waiting for pleasure boat rides and even just walking along and enjoying the sunshine. Out in the water stands the island with the fort of St Nicholas, once a defensive fortress that later become a prison which is now deserted. the Alcatraz of Marseille. Restaurants line the waterfront and look to be doing a roaring trade with so many visitors from all nations. Tram lines take up the middle of many roads so although they may look wide cars still only have one narrow line. We would like to stay here and spend a few days however we dont have time and decide we will have to come back another time.
We leave and follow the A55 towards Martigues and then the D5 and D9 to the port of at ‘Carro’ for the camperstop right on the beach. Here we can sit and relax and as it is a surfers paradise, enjoy the evening watching them ride the waves with a nice glass of wine.

Day 61

Carro

Waking early to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, the sea is a brilliant blue and the waves and spray pure white, such a lovely view. On the horizon large cargo ships pass slowly in and out of the nearby port, and by mid-morning the surfers are again out and displaying their skills on the high waves. All very fascinating to watch. We walk over and have a word with the ‘man in the van’, at first he pretends not to understand but after a while he accepts that we want to talk about what he did yesterday and he accepts this. We speak amicably about the previous days events and then shake hands to show no hard feelings. He says he is very sorry and brings over a bottle of wine, we are so glad that it has been sorted out in a friendly and civilised manner so that we can now forget it. We did not want any money from him and did not want to report it to the insurance (no need), so he was happy and we had it off our chest. We had to mend the broken waste water pipe that had been smashed on the rock as we were hit, seeing us doing this he came over to offer his help. That all done we sat and watched the waves and the surfers, before taking a stroll into the village past the fish market, which had now finished for the day. In the small fishing port the water was calm and still in sharp contrast to the turbulent water round the corner. There are not many shops here but we find what we need, bread, and make our way back for a bit of lunch. As the afternoon goes on the wind really picks up and it is too cold to sit outside so we watch the waves from inside. There has been a lot of work to catch up on today on our computors so it is pleasant to sit in the warmth and still have the view.

Tomorrow we will be moving on.

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